How to Write an Effective Recommendation Letter
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated 8 November 2022 | Published 25 August 2020
Updated 8 November 2022
Published 25 August 2020
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
In order to get promoted or hired, a colleague may ask you to write a recommendation letter. A well-written recommendation letter will prove a job seeker's professional skills, support their strengths and accomplishments and confirm their work experience. In this article, we'll discuss what a recommendation letter is and how to write one.
What is a recommendation letter?
A recommendation letter, also known as a reference letter, is a document designed to add merit or reinforce a college or job application. They are typically written by a friend, teacher, colleague or supervisor. If you write a recommendation letter for an individual, you are essentially confirming what is in his or her application and resume.
Recommendation letters are typically used by people in the workforce who are applying for jobs and by students applying to undergraduate programs, graduate schools, fellowship or scholarship programs. For instance:
A job seeker may need a written professional recommendation letter that supports why he or she is a good candidate for a job or company.
People who want to get admitted to an MBA program usually need two to three recommendation letters that explain why they should be accepted.
Some scholarship programs also require candidates to submit a recommendation letter to support their scholarship application. This is most common in merit-based programs that grant scholarships based on volunteer experience, academic merit, etc.
How to format a recommendation letter
Here are the key steps for formatting a recommendation letter:
Indicate the sender's and recipient's information
Include a polite and personable salutation
Write a compelling introduction
Include a body paragraph about the candidate's qualifications
Include a second body paragraph about the candidate's personality
Write a captivating conclusion
Include a formal and polite closing
1. Indicate the sender's and recipient's information
As with any other professional communication, a recommendation letter follows the writing conventions of a standard formal letter. Place your information (name, address, contact number and email) on the top right, followed by the date. Below the date, on the left, place the recipient's information (name, title, name of company and address).
Here's an example:
222 Shutai St.
Yishun, Singapore 8999
April 1, 2020
123 Oten St.
Bukit Batok, Singapore
2. Include a polite and personable salutation
When meeting people for the first time, the way you greet them affects their first impression of you. The way you address a person in a letter is no different. Thus, it's important to use personable and polite salutation to start your recommendation letter off strong.
Here are some examples of good salutations:
'Dear Mr. Kwu'
'Dear Dr. Kwan'
'Dear Professor Lee'
If you don't know the name of your recipient, try to make your salutation as personable as possible. Avoid weak salutations such as 'To Whom It May Concern' that don't directly address the recipient.
Here's a good example:
'Dear Hiring Manager,'
'Dear Dean of Admissions,'
If you're addressing a group such as a board of directors or admissions committee, follow the same format outlined above. The only difference is that the recipient's title is replaced by the name of the company or group. For example:
'Dear Board of Directors'
'Dear Admissions Committee'
'Dear Kwan Technologies'
3. Write a compelling introduction
The first paragraph of a recommendation letter explains the purpose of the document and your relationship with the person you are recommending. To make the first sentence impactful, immediately express your recommendation of the candidate. Here are some good examples:
'I wholeheartedly recommend...'
'It's my honour and pleasure to recommend...'
Take the time to describe who you are and your relations to the person you're recommending. This establishes the relevance of your letter. When establishing your relationship with the person, make sure to mention your position and company or school. Discuss the capacity in which you know the person and state how long you have worked together.
To properly end your introductory paragraph, emphasise some of the person's key personality traits or strengths. For example:
'During that time, I witnessed Katy grow into a brilliant person who excels in both his personal and academic pursuits.'
4. Include a body paragraph about the candidate's qualifications
The first body paragraph usually details why the person you're recommending is qualified for the job, and what s/he can contribute. Whenever possible, include specific examples that attest to the person's skills, talents or experiences.
Here's a good example:
'Karen's in-depth knowledge of online marketing helped increase the number of projects completed on-time and within budget by 50%.'
5. Include a second body paragraph about the candidate's personality
The second body paragraph highlights the candidate's positive characteristics or personality traits that the school or company regards highly. When mentioning the person's characteristics, make sure to include relevant and specific examples or anecdotes to support your claims. Here's an example:
'As a member of Home for Children, Mark showed his selfless nature and compassion by providing invaluable mentorship to many underprivileged children.'
6. Write a captivating conclusion
To write a captivating conclusion, begin by reiterating your recommendation of the person. Then, emphasise the value of the person to a company or school. Convey this message with confidence. For example:
'There's no doubt in my mind that James would quickly become an invaluable asset for your company.'
To end your conclusion effectively, encourage your recipient to contact you if they have any questions about the candidate.
7. Include a formal and polite closing
Make sure that your letter closing is formal and polite. Some good examples include 'Best regards,' 'Regards' and 'Sincerely.' Sincerely is widely considered to be the best closing, as it sounds polite, friendly and warm. If you want to use a two-word closing, such as 'Best regards,' capitalise only the first letter of the first word.
Recommendation letter template
Here's a template you can use when drafting your own recommendation letter for a job:
[Your First Name, Last Name]
[City, State, Zip]
[Your contact number]
[Your email address]
[Name of company]
[City, State, Zip]
Dear [Hiring Manager's Name],
It is my honour and pleasure to recommend [Name of the person you're recommending] for the position [Job title] at [Name of the company]. I have worked with [First name of the person] for [No. of years] years as [his/her] supervisor at [Your company name], where [he/she] used [his/her] excellent [the person's relevant skill/s] to provide great results in the role of [role at the previous company]. I am confident that [First name of the person]'s personal qualities, professional experience, exceptional skills will make [him/her] a great asset at [Name of the company].
As [role at the previous company], [First name of the person] demonstrated [his/her] [Two to three detailed skills or experience related to the job he/she is applying for]. In particular, [One example proving the skills you have mentioned]. Moreover, [Provide more examples here].
In addition, [First name of the person] outstanding [Provide one to two personal traits/qualities relevant to the position] always made [him/ her] an exceptional member of the company. During [Title of the project, event, situation, crisis, etc.], [he/she] demonstrated [his/her] excellent [Trait 1] qualities to [mention positive results here].
[First name of the person] has my highest recommendation for the job. I am confident [he/she] will make a strong addition to your company. If you have any questions regarding [his/her] candidacy or previous work, please feel free to contact me.
Recommendation letter example
Here's a sample recommendation letter for a job candidate:
Chin Chun Tsu
Bilat & Co., LLC
14 Oak Drive
Jurung East, Singapore 32444
April 1, 2020
Otin Holdings, Inc.
321 Main Street
Singapore, Singapore 12000
Dear Ms. Chiu,
It is my honour and pleasure to recommend Jimmy Liu for the Sales Manager position with Otin Holdings, Inc. Jimmy and I worked together at Bilat & Co., LLC, where I was his manager and direct supervisor from 2015-2019.
I very much enjoyed my time working with Jimmy and came to know him as a truly valuable asset to any company. He is dependable, honest and incredibly hardworking. He is also an exceptional problem solver who is always able to resolve complex problems with confidence and strategy.
His expertise in cold calling and knowledge of sales etiquette was a big advantage to our company. He used this skill set in order to increase our overall sales by more than 30% in just one quarter. I believe that Jimmy was a huge piece of our company's success.
Along with his exceptional talent, Jimmy has always been fun to work with. He is an absolute team player and always manages to foster positive working relationships. He also brings the best out of his co-workers.
Without a doubt, I confidently recommend Jimmy to join your company. As a knowledgeable, versatile and dedicated employee, I know that he will make a strong addition to your company. If you like to discuss Jimmy's experience and qualifications further, please feel free to contact me at 555-123-4567 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. It is my pleasure to expand on my recommendation.
Chin Chun Tsu
Bilat & Co., LLC
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